Women in construction: Nailing a male-dominated industry

After 20 years of working in customer service, Wendi Spence couldn't find a job. Then she heard about the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation's program to train female construction workers.

"At the time I was unemployed so I was willing to try almost anything," said Spence. "After I took the class I found that I really liked it."

During eight weeks of instruction, the women became certified to work on construction sites, as well as manage job safety and perform first aid.

At the end, Monica Pineau, Spence and a few others chose to tackle the male-dominated industry by banding together.

"We decided to start a company called 'Working Women in Construction,'" said Pineau.

According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women make up just 9 percent of the industry and 76 percent of them hold sales and office positions. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of women in the industry actually dropped by close to 275,000.

As they compete for jobs, the women say they're running into many barriers. Even the female homeowner on their current job was reluctant to hire them at first.

"I was surprised that they really work like that and you don't need to be a man," said Noella Koryak.

"We feel there is a place for women and it's just getting our foot in the door has been really hard," said Pineau.

Jo Ellen Soesbee, who is partnering on the job, founded a construction company called 'Reliable Repairs' in 2004. To fight the stereotypes, she says women need to hammer home that they're qualified by doing the job well.

"I mean it's tough. You have to really love it, want to do it and be confident," said Soesbee.

And if just given the opportunity to build, these women say they'll nail it.

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